Language of Football Fans

By Matt Vicker

When I told Tom about my first football blog post about language in football, he said ‘what, like the chanting?’ to which I replied ‘no, but that would be interesting to write about *mind starts whirring*’. So here goes!

I am a Bristol Rovers supporter – and proud of it! At most of the games I go to, there is a considerable amount of chanting, aimed at various players, people and just passionately singing for the hell of it.

Win, lose or draw, the club’s song ‘Goodnight Irene’ will be echoed around the stadium. From a personal perspective, I think that is a reflection of the passionate nature of our fans (gasheads). Other fans may do that at their home grounds, but we will do it home or away. I have been to two away matches with Rovers in the past year – the first was Torquay, and the second was last month at Birmingham in the FA Cup. At Birmingham, although we lost 3-0, from the first to the last-minute, we sang and chanted – supporting our team. I think that the passion in chanting can come from the plosivity/plosiveness/plosivitude (can’t decide which one is correct) of words we include. Needless to say, a lot of them are vulgarities and swear words.

In the second half of matches at the Mem, Rovers tend to attack towards the Blackthorn End which is the main section for home fans and any time the opposition goalkeeper takes a goal kick in front of them, there is a chorus of ‘oooooooooooooooooooooh (*kicks*) you’re sh*t aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah’ This is used more as an attempt to put the ‘keeper off more than a direct attack on his abilities. Putting words to a tune is a great way to unite the fans – something as simple as ‘Wardy, give us a wave. Wardy, Wardy give us a wave! (*manager John Ward waves*)’ adds to the atmosphere and gets behind the team in an unexplainable way. Ultimately, it unites the fans and brings them together to create one hell of an atmosphere. Half of the whole occasion of a football match is the atmosphere – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Heckles are also an interesting use of language at a football match. More often that not, there is something that will happen in a match that will prompt severe heckling – that can last the entire match. The referee and his assistants are generally on the receiving end of most abuse. If they make a bad decision (in the eyes of a fan) then they will be subjected to a heckle. ‘Are you blind, referee?’ A few matches back a bald, linesman got and offside call ‘wrong’ and one person in the crowd shouted ‘what’s the matter linesman, hair get in your eyes?’ I think that those instances the fan is almost trying to create humour for the other fans who are in earshot in order to keep morality up. In difficult seasons (such as this one) humour can be something that we can cling onto. The more creative you are with your shouts, the better response you will get from the other fans.

The importance of being vocal and using language at football matches is to get behind your team and encourage them to victory. It is also about expressing the passion and enthusiasm for the sport.  If everyone in the crowd was silent for ninety minutes it would be incredibly dull. Creatively using language to get behind your team is an important part of football. What do you think, got any views? What kind of language do you use at sporting events? Leave a comment below!

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